Parent is Too Lenient

We love our children, which is why we want to protect them from everything that feels bad – even from the consequences of their own actions. It is out of compassion and love that we sometimes neglect to discipline our youngsters. However, permissiveness can tend to backfire. Kids need firm guidance and adequate parental control (especially on issues involving appropriate behavior, safety, health and emotional well-being) in order to grow into healthy and mature individuals.

What are the signs that a parent is being too lenient with a child? Consider the following:

You Don’t Set Rules
Rules are important in any household. Not only do rules help prevent arguments and conflict (i.e. a rule that says that sweets are given only AFTER dinner helps stop children from begging for candy at all times of the day), they also set limits (i.e. candy is not being offered all day!). Limits imposed from the outside can help children learn to set their own limits eventually. For instance, having a few simple rules like “homework must be finished before T.V. or computer time,” “teeth must be brushed morning and night,” “sugar cereal is only eaten on weekends” and so on, can help children develop healthy habits for a lifetime. What starts off as a rule can eventually becomes a way of life.

You Don’t Implement Rules
You’re a lenient or permissive parent if you’re all talk and no action. Rules in a household are only good to the extent that they are implemented. If children do not see a consistent consequence for misbehavior, they are less likely to comply with rules. The first time a rule is broken, explain what the consequence will be for future infractions. When it is broken a second time (and from then on), be sure to implement the consequence. If they child continues to break the rule, this means that your selected consequence is ineffective. After using it three or four times without seeing improvement, select a different consequence and see whether the child is now observing the rule. Continue experimenting with consequences (give each one a trial of 3 or 4 times) until you find “the right priced ticket.” You can find more information on effective discipline in Raising Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

You Grant Your Children Age-Inappropriate Liberties
Parenting is not just about setting and implementing rules, it’s also about giving your children enough space in order to explore their identity and develop their independence. But note that there are age-appropriate freedoms, and freedoms that have to be curtailed because children have yet to develop the maturity to handle responsibility. You don’t hand your pre-teen an unlimited credit line, you do not ask your 10 year to decide whether he or she wants to go to the doctor or not, nor do you encourage your 12-year old to engage in an active sexual lifestyle – unless you have a poor sense of age-appropriate activities. A lenient parent is one who is not prepared to say “no” when viritually all other parents of a child of that age would have no trouble doing so.

You Give in to All of Your Child’s Requests
Lenient parents can’t say “no.” They give their child whatever he or she wants no matter the cost. It doesn’t matter if they child already has an excess of the item or if the child has no need for the item – if the child wants it, he or she gets it. The lenient parent hates to disappoint a child and tries very hard not to, even when saying “yes” is detrimental to the child’s development.

Overcoming Leniency
Attending a parenting class is a good way to get perspective and learn some techniques to counterbalance a lenient tendency. Some parenting books can also be very helpful in this regard. Consulting a parenting professional or mental health professional can also be a constructive way to acquire some “backbone” without harming the relationship you have with your child.

Too Controlling

People like to have things their way. Parents, in particular, often like to have things their way – because they feel that they know what is best for their children. No matter the age of the child, the parent is always a couple of decades (or more) older than the youngster and therefore, even if not wiser, is at least more experienced. This makes the parent rightfully confident in the leadership position. However, being in charge can sometimes lead to being controlling. Let’s look at some of the differences between taking appropriate control and being unpleasantly controlling.

Parental Authority
Parents are in a leadership position in their household. While they can certainly be kind, loving and respectful to their children, they must also be prepared to set boundaries and limits and to offer guidance. Parents are responsible for the safety and education of their children. They need to direct the household. When they fulfill these tasks in a way that is respectful of the child’s feelings and needs, they are taking control. When they fulfill these tasks without sensitivity to the child’s feelings or needs, they may be controlling.

For instance, a parent can set an appropriate bedtime for a child. The parent can use his or her authority to instruct the child to go to bed at that time. However, if the child shows that he or she is not yet ready for sleep or has something that needs to be finished, the parent may make allowances, permitting some flexibility around the designated bedtime in order to meet the child’s needs. However, when the parent is controlling, there will be little or no consideration of the child’s needs.

To understand this better, imagine that you have seen a watch that you’d like to buy. It’s a bit pricey, but exactly what you’ve been looking for. You tell your spouse that you’re thinking of purchasing the watch. Your spouse tells you that there’s no way that you’re going to buy that watch at that price. Even if you manage to purchase the watch, your spouse’s behavior has been controlling. On the other hand, if your spouse entered into a discussion with you about his or her concerns about the cost and tried to creatively find a way that it would be possible for you to get it anyway (i.e. find it elsewhere at a better price, save up over a few months, buy it on a payment plan, etc.), and at no point put his or her foot down to tell you what you can and cannot do, then your spouse is not at all controlling.

A controlling parent calls the shots without regard to the child’s feelings or needs.

Adults with Controlling Parents
It’s not only small children and teenagers who suffer from controlling parents. Adults can have them too! Sometimes parents issue “commands” to their grown children such telling them they must come for dinner once a week or call every day or do errands for them. They may assert their control in various ways – by being aggressive if their demands are not met or by acting pathetic and helpless in a manipulative way. Parents can even make financial threats in order to assert control (“if you don’t do as I ask, I’ll cut you out of my will.”). Adult children need to find their own strength. They don’t really have to do anything their parents want them to do anymore, but they must be willing to face the consequences of non-compliance. Will a parent cut off communication or baby sitting services? Adults have to decide what the cost will be if they defy controlling parents and whether or not they are willing to pay those costs.

Teens with Controlling Parents
Teenagers make those kinds of calculations all the time. A teen might stay out past curfew because friends are all at a big celebration. The teen knows that her controlling father will be enraged when she gets home late but she chooses to deal with that in order to stay out with her friends. In fact, teens – like adults – don’t have to comply with controlling parents. They will, however, have to pay a price for non-compliance. The truth is that parents will have to pay a price, too, for being controlling. Often, the child withdraws from a controlling parent. As the child becomes more independent, he or she has less and less to do with the controlling parent because contact is so unpleasant. It is important for the health of the parent-child relationship that parents give more and more freedoms as the child matures and less and less direction. The child needs space to develop through the process of making errors and making adjustments. The more a parent can start to stand back and allow the child to experience life, the more the child will appreciate him or her. Controlling parents may be highly invested in the success of their child (and therefore make all sorts of rules and conditions in order to “protect” the child and ensure success). However, even if the child succeeds in the end, the parent-child relationship may be so strained that the child will not allow the parent to be part of that success.

Anxiety is the underlying motivation for being controlling. Parents make too many rules and limits when they don’t trust the child to behave normally. However, excessive rule-making usually results in excessive sneakiness and deception. Parents need to work WITH a child to find a way for both parent and child to feel fairly satisfied with conditions. Together, parents and teens can establish curfews and hosuehold rules. A teen needs to be consulted just like an adult.

Young children can also be consulted. However, parents of young children do need to be somewhat more controlling. The younger the child, the less freedom is appropriate. Toddlers need adults to help establish healthy habits. The older the child gets, however, the more the parent has to loosen controls and offer more freedom. Again, failure to do so can pose a serious threat to the parent-child relationship.

When You Know You are Too Controlling
You may realize that you are too controlling. However, fear and concern for the child’s well-being has made you behave this way. You want so badly to help save your child from harm so you tell him that his girlfriend isn’t good enough for him or that he needs to take such and such a job for the summer or that he can’t associate with various friends. You have seen for yourself the poor results you are getting with this method of parenting and you want to change, but your worry for the child’s welfare gets in your way. What can you do?

There are several things you can do. First, join a parenting group of parents whose kids are in the same age group as yours. When you hear how other kids behave and how their parents deal with it, you will acquire so much valuable knowledge. You may also find emotional support in such a group. Reading parenting books and checking online for issues faced by this age group, can also be very helpful. Finally, seek psychological counselling. A professional mental health practitioner such as a psychologist, social worker or family therapist can help you gain perspective and unique skills for solving parenting problems. The sooner you can break away from your controlling tendencies, the sooner your kids will be able to live up to your positive hopes and dreams for them.

Is Your Teen Ready for a Car?

When teens get old enough to drive, the question arises: are they old enough to get their own car? Not every parent can afford to give their teenager the gift of a vehicle and not every teenager can afford to buy his or her own car. However, there are many parents and teens who can manage the expenses involved and for them the question becomes, should they do it? Is a teenager really ready to be responsible for a vehicle?

If you’re a parent considering getting or allowing your child to have his or her own car, consider the following tips:

Gauge His or Her Driving Skills
If safety is your concern, then the first thing to do is assess your teen’s driving skills. If your teen was able to get a license to drive, then at the very least you know he or she has the basics. However, many new drivers get into accidents simply due to lack of experience behind the wheel. How long has your child been driving? There’s a big difference between driving 6 months and 3 years. Ask the insurance companies! In fact, you can ask your insurance company to help you assess the accident risk of a teenager your child’s age and gender. That can help you decide whether to permit your child to have a car at all and also whether that car, if you decide to go ahead with it, should be a brand new luxury product or a clunker that you can afford to lose.

Suppose you are not quite confident that your child is road-ready, despite what the licencing bureau has said. Your child is not the only one at risk. Anyone who drives in the car with him or her (like your other children or others) is at equal risk, as are all the other “innocent” drivers on the road and pedestrians on the sidewalks. Driving is serious, life-threatening business. Therefore, you want to be very sure that your child can handle the responsibility of being behind the wheel. Do you want your child to have more experience before handing him or her a set of keys? If so, explain your concerns and give him or her opportunities to strengthen driving skills. Designate this child as family driver for a pre-agreed period of time, helping out with errands and short local trips. Once he or she is familiar with the roads in your neighborhood, then go ahead and extend the excursions. Drive with your child to get an idea of their driving abilities.

Note Your Child’s Attitude
Skill is one thing; attitude is another. Many accidents on the road are caused, not by drivers who lack skill, but drivers who are reckless. It’s important then to ask yourself, does your child have the right attitude for driving?

Parents can assess their children pretty accurately by asking themselves some simple questions such as the following: Are they prone to impulsive behavior? Are they competitive to the degree that they ignore their own safety, or other’s well-being? Are they temperamental, hot-headed, or unable to manage their emotions? Or perhaps they’re easy to distract, and can often be found unproductively juggling several things at once. Are they easily influenced by their peers? Are they more concerned about their social life than their responsibilities (like schoolwork, family responsibilities, jobs and so on)? Do they drink or take drug? Do they respect the law? Can they take serious things seriously? Are they trustworthy? Do they have a way to pay for vehicle-related expenses (including the cost of the vehicle, licences and permits, upkeep and repairs)? Have they managed to hold down a job and save up their money?

If you spot an attitude that might possibly pose as a driving risk, discuss it with your youngster. You have the right to say, “I feel that such & such behavior can pose a driving risk and I’m not comfortable at this time with you having a car. We need to wait until we see that this behavior is straightened out.” For instance, if your daughter has had difficulty respecting her curfew for the last year, and has been suspended from school recently for skipping classes with friends, you might feel that she is not ready for the responsibility of her own car. Or, if your son has borrowed money from you on several occasions and has had trouble keeping his commitment to pay it back, you may feel that he is not ready for the financial aspects of car ownership. Whatever your reason, remember that ultimately YOU will be responsible for whatever goes wrong on the road. Your teenager is still a dependent child even if he or she CAN drive! Make sure YOU are ready for your child to own a car.

It’s better that you teenagers know why you’re hesitant in getting them a car, rather than have them think that you’re being stingy or mean. Many things can be corrected, if you just invest time in teaching your teen the values and traits you’d like them to acquire. Send them for professional counseling if you feel that there are serious issues that require correction. And remember that each additional year of life brings another year of experience and, hopefully, maturity. Waiting a bit may be appropriate. You might even be able to employ the idea of a new  car as an opportunity to guide your child toward increased maturity. The vehicle becomes more than just as symbol of their journey to adulthood but an actual part of that journey!